What were they thinking?

A few head-scratchers from local government in 2022

This season, organizers said the fence around the City Plaza would come down once the ice rink was set up—and it did. For the first go-around, it remained up far beyond the skate season. (Photo by Jason Cassidy)

Don’t fence it in

After an unsightly fence popped up around City Plaza in late 2021, the city of Chico and the Downtown Chico Business Association (DCBA) claimed it was necessary to enable construction and operation of an ice rink for the holiday season. The fact that fence stayed up until April—even though the rink stopped operating in January—gave weight to suspicions of homeless advocates that the barrier’s true purpose was to block access to the park. When the fence went up again in November for the controversial attraction’s second coming, the DCBA was quick to declare it would be come down much sooner. It did.

Quality control issues

Conservatives on the Chico City Council have used the term “quality of life” like a marketing slogan for their agenda, perhaps nowhere more obviously so than with the Protect Chico’s Quality of Life Act. Vice Mayor Kasey Reynolds proposed a combination ballot measure and city commission drawn—loosely, turns out—from a Sacramento city initiative. The goal: Let citizens hold the city accountable, financially, for unresolved complaints of public nuisances. Skepticism from her colleagues led to a review by the city attorney (poor) that led to a watered-down version appearing as Measure L on the November ballot. Opponents, and this newspaper, saw it as a thinly veiled anti-homeless stunt, but most voters disagreed and the measure passed by a wide margin.

Chief of Police Matt Madden sits in the interim city manager’s seat, briefly. (Photo by Evan Tuchinsky)

Dispensary delays

Despite a strong majority of Chico voters approving commercial cannabis back in 2016, opponents on the City Council have spared little effort in sludging up progess. That includes suspending the application process, repeatedly rewriting rules and demanding more money from would-be retailers. Only three of the dozens of hopeful applicants—many of whom lost countless dollars and hours in pursuit of a permit—will be allowed to open shop. The first, Sweet Flower, part of a chain of dispensaries based near Los Angeles, is expected to open in Meriam Park this month.

Now you see him …

When the Chico City Council parted ways with City Manager Mark Orme in late March, the process took six hours over two special meetings in three days. At some point during all those deliberations, council members decided to appoint then-Police Chief Matt Madden as interim city manager, bypassing Deputy City Manager Jennifer Macarthy. Thing is, no one took the time to check with Madden. So, as City Attorney Vince Ewing announced the news, the chief was as surprised as anyone. He took the job but immediately sought to get out of it—and, mid-April, the council hired a replacement (Paul Hahn, retired Butte County chief administrative officer). Madden returned to Chico PD … and soon retired.

I signed WHAT?

On Jan. 4, the Chico City Council voted unanimously to sign the Warren v. City of Chico lawsuit settlement. But in a letter dated 10 days after that, Vice Mayor Kasey Reynolds asked the federal judge overseeing the case for take-backsies. Reynolds claimed she wasn’t aware the vote was on the final circumstances of the settlement, wasn’t aware of some of the document’s details, was concerned about being on record supporting it and asked (in underlined text) “would it be possible to not sign” the document she’d already signed off on until the council met again Jan. 18. The judge effectively said, “No.”


  1. And now that they’ve passed their one-cent sales tax measure, the city has noticed homeowners of a proposal to base our sewer bill on the amount of water we get from Cal Water. Essentially, they want us to pay for our water twice, adding another $1.22 per ccf. And of course that includes water that does not go down your sewer pipe – water you use for outside landscaping, wash your car, clean the outside of your house, etc, will be included in your sewer bill. “Affected parties” have until Jan 17 to make a written protest to Chico City Council. Read more at chicotaxpayers.com

  2. When I saw the cover this month, I flipped the pages immediately hoping to see coverage of the Tuscan Water District election fiasco of September. How often does the county board of elections back off counting votes on the day they are to be counted? There is a story behind that, but it’s not being investigated by any local news organization. The entire conception of this water district was tainted from the get-go by LAFCO and the Board of Supervisors’ “conservative” majority (always in the pocket of big ag), which appears to have green-lighted this election without doing their homework. In the event, corporate landowners were about to be given the right to vote *as corporations*. The ballot was sent out without any prior notice and with no statement opposing the TWD. I hope the CNR will focus on this impending heist of Butte County’s groundwater, even with its limited resources, because the impact of what they are trying to do will be felt in a dying urban tree canopy, rising costs for urban water, and an irreparably damaged aquifer. This is not a minor issue.

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